"Wildfires Reach Greek Air Force Munitions Depot, Prompting Evacuations and Explosions"

news 28-Jul-2023 Europe

Wildfires Reach Air Force Munitions Depot in Greece

Many wildfires in Greece have been brought under control, but the situation is not yet fully relieved. In the central part of the country, a wildfire reached an air force munitions depot, resulting in explosions and the evacuation of several areas.

One of the devastating wildfires in Greece triggered multiple explosions at an air force munitions depot. The explosions were heard for kilometers, as reported by the state broadcaster ERT. The force of the detonations caused windows to shatter in the vicinity of the depot.

A portion of the munitions depot at a military base in Nea Anchialos caught fire following the explosions, according to a spokesperson from the firefighting department, as reported by the AFP news agency. Media reports suggest that the storage facility contained weapons from F-16 fighter jets, cruise missiles, and 450 to 900-kilogram heavy bombs.

The region is home to one of the largest air force bases in Greece, with the munitions depot situated approximately four kilometers north of Nea Anchialos Airport, as stated by the state broadcaster. Three F-16 squadrons are stationed there. As a precautionary measure, these combat aircraft will be relocated to other air force bases in Greece.

Several Communities Evacuated

The area in the Volos region of central Greece had already been evacuated before the explosions, according to the Greek Air Force. Fortunately, there were no reported injuries. The ERT television channel showed residents and visitors from the coastal town of Anchialos, located four kilometers away from the explosion site, being transported to safety by boats. Others left the area using buses and cars.

The state broadcaster announced that all residents within a three-kilometer radius were urged to leave the region. Six municipalities and villages around the city were evacuated in the early morning, with additional areas put on high alert. As a precaution, the industrial zone of the city was closed. Furthermore, an important highway had to be closed for several hours due to the wildfire.

Dangerous Aerial Operations

The fires in the region started on Wednesday, and firefighters, police, and volunteers worked throughout the night until Thursday to bring the wildfires under control in the vicinity of the port city of Volos.

According to the firefighting authorities, seven planes and three helicopters are deployed to combat the blaze. However, due to the explosions, the firefighting efforts are being carried out "to the best extent possible." The emergency responders are using a drone in coordination with the air force to assess the situation inside the depot before deciding on further actions. Currently, water dropping from the air is not possible due to the risks it poses to the pilots.

Countrywide Situation Mostly Under Control

Greece has been experiencing extreme heat for the past two weeks. Hundreds of firefighters have been battling wildfires across the country, resulting in at least five fatalities. On the island of Rhodes, thousands of tourists had to be evacuated to safety.

The wildfires in the affected regions of Greece have largely been brought under control, as stated by Giannis Artopoios, the spokesperson for the Greek firefighting department, on state television. Inhabited areas are no longer under threat, and the flames have been largely contained in central Greece as well, according to the spokesperson.

However, the situation still warrants caution. While the prolonged heat is expected to subside somewhat, strong winds have been predicted. "The risk of fires remains significant, and the highest alert level is still in effect," warned Artopoios. Meteorologists cautioned that the combination of strong winds and dry conditions could create an "explosive cocktail."

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